Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Psalm 137:4


How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Last night, thinking that I should find a way to prepare myself for changes ahead, I decided to open the Bible to the center and pray with whatever passage presented itself. I knew that my text was likely to be a Psalm (given that the Psalms are in the middle), but I was baffled by the one that materialized before my eyes. I am used to thinking about this one in something of its literal context. I am used to thinking of it in the milieu of a community of people who would prefer to be in Israel but pursue lives of energy and celebration here, singing the Lord's song rather than moping about in despair. And yet. . . somewhere in my stack of hardbound journals, in the writings that seldom see the light of day, let alone the waves of the internet, is a meditation on this very passage, an exploration of the layers of meaning that might be ascribed to "strange land." As I recall, I have pondered this passage before.

Last night, the immediate matter before me had to do with a very personal transition. This evening I have a meeting with someone to explore new possibilities for spiritual direction. I am something of a reluctant participant in this venture, being forced into it by circumstances beyond my control, but I feel a twinge of anticipation and excitement as well. The building of new relationships demands tremendous patience and effort, and this one will require that I leave behind old ways of doing things and the comfort of easily anticipated expectations. But it may offer new venues of perception and understanding as well.

Perhaps the question that presented itself to me was exactly the one I needed to ask. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a new land?

There are, of course, much wider and deeper changes and challenges ahead of me. In ten weeks or so, assuming all goes well, I will be both in seminary and in a spiritual direction training program. I've made a detailed chart of my schedule for the nine-month school year ahead. Just as an image on the computer screen, it's intimidating ~ and the image does not take into account the personalities and priorities and preconceptions and committments I am going to be asked to navigate in each program. I am accustomed to being the lawyer, the teacher, the leader, the one who establishes the environment and sets the agenda. Remember that term, "radical disspossession?" Umm-hmmm.

The question that presented itself to me is exactly the one I need to ask. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a new land?

It has also recently become excruciatingly apparent to me that someone whom I love deeply is going to face an endless stream of difficulties in life, difficulties which will affect everyone else I love and about which I can do nothing. I am also accustomed to being the Solver of Problems, and there may well be no solution here. I am going to have to find ways to endure with both compassion and integrity, to extend myself without losing myself, to persist in a space not of my choosing.

Indeed: How shall we sing the Lord's song in a new land?

6 comments:

Mrs. M said...

What a full time this is for you! It sounds rich, though not easy.

Quotidian Grace said...

You'll sing with God's help! Sending prayers and blessings for your journey...

Gannet Girl said...

Actually, if you'd ever heard me sing -- er, croak -- you'd have a better idea of just how extended this metaphor is!

Diane said...

Indeed, that IS the question? How shall we sing? But again: How can we keep from singing? both and... I see what you mean...transitions difficult both for you and for person/people you love...

Theresa Williams said...

What an absolutely gorgeous post. I will think about that all day: "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" I love that. The implications of that can keep the mind busy a long while. You are going through so much right now, and your inclination toward growth is inspiring.

Kathryn said...

I am late with this comment but I am sorry to read that you foresee endless difficulties for a loved one. I wish you strength to deal with that realization and the ability to accept that some things are beyond fixing.

I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.